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To Refuse Or To Not Refuse A DUI Test

When at a traffic stop for driving under the influence (DUI), you have the right to refuse any tests, but should you exercise that right? At Finkelstein Firm, P.A., I provide my clients in the Clearwater area with the guidance they deserve in their criminal defense needs. My name is Jenna Finkelstein, and before you meet with me, I want you to know your rights when it comes to refusing a DUI test.

What You Should Know About Refusing

Perhaps one of the most common questions I get as a criminal and DUI defense lawyer is, “Should I refuse field sobriety tests?” My response is always: That depends. It depends on several factors that I have outlined below. I hate when an attorney tells their clients to never submit to field sobriety tests, exercises or blood alcohol content (BAC) tests. The reason is because that attorney is because refusing can cause you to forfeit your driver’s license and can even be a criminal offense.

Refusing to “blow” has serious consequences that affect your ability to drive going forward. In Florida, officers are required to read implied consent warnings to suspected drunk drivers. This is a warning that informs a driver that they may lose their license if they stand by their refusal. A first-time refusal may result in a one-year driver’s license revocation.

If the driver has previously refused to submit to a breath test, they may be charged under Florida Statute 316.1939. This charge, refusal to submit, is a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum possible penalty of one year in county jail.

What Commercial Drivers Should Know

Commercial driver’s license (CDL) refusals have significant repercussions as well. For a first-time refusal, a person may not be allowed to drive for a period of one year. Obviously, if you have a CDL, you likely rely heavily on your license for your livelihood. These suspensions can be financially devastating. At the end of the one-year period, the driver must pay a reinstatement fee for the CDL. If the driver was carrying hazardous material at the time of the refusal, a three-year suspension is required under Florida law.

The Consequences Of Refusing

A refusal can cut both ways in a criminal case. On the one hand, should you refuse to blow, the state has no hard evidence that you were over the legal limit. If you go to trial, the state must rely on the officer’s observations to convince a jury that you were under the influence to the extent that your normal faculties were impaired. If you submitted to field sobriety exercises and performed well, then you are likely to have a good case.

However, if you are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and “failed” the field sobriety exercises, your refusal may be in vain. Jurors love evidence they can see, such as videos. If you are falling down and stumbling with slurred speech, then a juror may not care that they do not have breath test results.

How Refusing Can Harm Your Defense

State attorneys have learned to use refusals against clients. A common argument that prosecutors make is that the defendant’s refusal is indicative that they are aware that they are above the legal limit, oftentimes called “consciousness of guilt.” An experienced criminal defense or DUI attorney knows how to deal with these arguments, should they present themselves.

I Am Here To Protect Your Future

The Finkelstein Firm, P.A., is a full-service Pinellas County criminal defense firm. Conveniently located in Largo, my office is only minutes away from Clearwater and St. Petersburg residents. I regularly handle criminal defense cases for residents of Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks, Kenneth City, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.

If you are in need of assistance or want more information, please contact my firm at 727-202-4418 or email me here for a free consultation and case evaluation.